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Grand Jury Refuses To Charge NJ Cops In Death Of Man Armed With Broken Bottle

Wilkes-Barre, PA – A Pennsylvania grand jury refused to indict three New Jersey police officers who fatally shot a suicidal man who was charging at them with a bottle.

Ventnor police responded to the scene on Aug. 6, 2020 after a postal worker called 911 and reported that a man was bleeding from a neck wound on the side of West End Avenue in Wilkes-Barre, New Jersey Advance Media reported.

Officers found 30-year-old Amir Johnson pacing on the side of the road with a broken bottle in his hand.

Bodycam video showed the officers tried to talk with Johnson and get him to drop his weapon for more than ten minutes.

Johnson told officers that he didn’t need or want help, the video showed.

“I was just tryin’ to get hit by cars,” Johnson said in the bodycam.

Then he repeatedly told officers to shoot him, the video showed.

Bodycam showed that more officers responded to the scene and stopped traffic both directions as Johnson walked in and out of the roadway.

Police requested that a negotiator respond to the scene to assist them in de-escalating the situation.

The officers repeatedly backed up as the suspect approached them but gradually created a large perimeter around Johnson, the video showed.

Officers negotiated to get Johnson to drop the broken bottle in exchange for a water bottle, but the suspect retrieved the dropped weapon as soon as he had the bottle of water in his hands.

“I still wanna get shot,” Johnson told the officers. “At least let me finish the water.”

“We don’t wanna hurt you,” Ventnor Police Officer Michael Arena, who led the conversation with Johnson, told him multiple times.

“I would actually prefer to get shot,” Johnson told police a few minutes later. “I’m in a lot of pain, man.”

The bodycam video showed that as more officers arrived on the scene, Johnson became more agitated.

At one point, an Atlantic City officer drew a yellow Taser and tried to deploy it at the suspect but the less-lethal weapon wouldn’t fire, New Jersey Advance Media reported.

“I don’t even think this Taser’s even operating,” the Atlantic City officer said. “This is unbelievable.”

When Johnson charged at the officers with a broken bottle in his hand a moment later, Ventnor Police Officers Arena, Pierluigi Mancuso, and Robert Scarborough opened fire on him, New Jersey Advance Media reported.

Bodycam video showed Johnson fell to the ground and the bottle smashed next to him.

He died from his wounds.

The Pennsylvania Office of Public Integrity and Accountability investigated the officer-involved shooting, including “interviews of witnesses, collection of forensic evidence, review of video footage, and autopsy results from the medical examiner,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Acting Pennsylvania Attorney General Matthew Platkin said prosecutors presented the findings of the investigation to a state grand jury and the panel voted “no bill,” meaning they found no cause to bring criminal charges against any of the officers involved in the deadly shooting.

Ventnor Police Chief Joe Fussner said he was glad his officers had been “cleared of any wrongdoing” but refused to comment any further, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Chief Fussner said.

Friends told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the month before Johnson was fatally shot by police, his fiancé died from a drug overdose.

They said he had gone to Atlantic City and gambled through the night the day before he died because he had good memories of spending time there with his late fiancé.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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